Walked 24th May 2012
Approximate distance: 16 miles from Waterloo Hotel, Newport to Premier Inn, Cardiff
I had decided to walk for the next two days, so I took the car to Chepstow station and left it there, getting the train to Newport. I then walked down to the point where I left off on May 12th.
This part of the path up to is the responsibility of Newport City Council up to ST 2490 7876 and then Cardiff Council. Their Coastal Access Officer is Tricia Cottnam email: firstname.lastname@example.org tel 029 2078 5320
The Waterloo Hotel and Bistro in Alexandra Road is directly on the route on the busy A48. You may have stayed here the night. If so, do post an opinion of the place. And if you stayed elsewhere on a room only basis or fancy a cup of coffee or breakfast, Fanny’s Rest Stop is directly opposite.
Thankfully, the path quickly takes you away from main road into a mostly residential estate. Pass the YMCA Conference Centre on your left and then turn left into Docks Way. You are walking through 28 East Retail Park. (Lidl is on the left if you want to get provisions). Pass under a railway bridge. Toyota is on the right. Once past a roundabout the official path descends to the right and crosses over a railway bridge but you might as well stay walking beside the road on a grit track, passing over a different railway bridge. At the next roundabout skirt to the right and then take the underpass. It feels like that you may have finished with Newport at this point but not quite.
Passing a rugby ground on the right you take a bridge over the Ebbw River. The path goes through the edge of the settlement of Duffryn. Turn left and walk alongside a road with a playing field on your left. On your right is Duffryn High School with no doubt several naughty boys and girls hanging around having a not so discreet cigarette. On no account talk to them about their inappropriate habits. Just past the school entrance the path turns off to the left and then immediately right (simply because there is no path by the road beyond this point). A left turn shortly after brings you to a wide track which rises to a railway bridge.
Now you have left the built up area of Newport but not its industry. As you head South-East through the now familiar looking wetlands, the two power stations of the Usk Estuary re-appear on the horizon.
Your soundscape is the song of birds, the crackling of the high voltage electricity lines that you are walking under and the clatter and reversing sirens of the heavy plant servicing the docks – and perhaps the occasional cough of one of the cows in the surrounding fields.
The path runs parallel to this levee but below it. Taking it would mean that you have no view out to the mouth of the Severn. Far better (if the ground is dry) to walk on the levee top. The cattle agree with me, and if the ground is hard their hoof marks make for an uneven and quite uncomfortable surface, but it’s worth paying this price.
Ahead and to the left is your next landmark- the West Usk Lighthouse, almost hidden by a small group of surrounding trees. The view is somewhat marred by two mobile homes situated below the trees.
You can stay here (at £135 or more a room). They are said to have a Dalek at the bottom of the spiral staircase. A blue police box (otherwise known in this part of the world as a Tardis) sits on the circular terrace half way up the building.
Well we are approaching Cardiff, which is the Dr Who centre of the world, so what do you expect? You might not expect the small settlement of static homes known as Lighthouse Park that is situated nearby. I don’t know how that got past the planners. Don’t start getting worked up about the ruination of our coastline by holiday development – there will be SO much more opportunity for that on later sections of the path.
The path continues on (or below if you prefer) the levee. Either way, Wharf Reen is on your right. Below you to the left, the wide salt marsh with its broad ditches and pools makes for a striking scene. You pass a double line of breakwater posts.
The levee gains a concrete seawall with heavy boulders below around this point. On the landward side, Peterstone Lakes Golf Course runs up to the peculiarly named Peterstone Gout– the main drainage point from the Wentlooge Levels to the sea.
The Gout is actually the tidal flap controlling the outfall to the sea (and preventing the sea flooding back). About a half a mile after the Gout the church tower of Peterstone Wentlooge is visible on the horizon.
The small village of Peterstone Wentlooge is worth the detour for the refreshments on offer at Six Bells Hotel (food all day, closed Mondays). A footpath runs straight to the church (which is now a home, guarded by a barking dog). It’s less than a quarter of a mile off route. The pub is just 30 yards along the street. I can vouch for their sandwiches.
The farms in this stretch of the Wentlooge Levels appear mostly to be homes for horses rather than livestock. The levee has gained an extra broad level and the marshes are really wide here. Several breakwaters jut into the estuary.
Signs of urbanisation are beginning to appear again. A solitary wind turbine is off to the right and you walk past a waste disposal site before turning right to skirt a large tip (though all you see of it are the high grass covered banks and possibly a JCB working away).
The pleasant walk by the reeds and reens comes abruptly to a halt and you are compelled to turn left and walk alongside the busy Lamby Way for half a mile. This is a noisy and unpleasant stretch. The road crosses the muddy (at low tide) river Rhymney.
As you approach the roundabout cross over the road and take a path to the left (the road signs indicate this is the way to “The Docks”). The path runs parallel to this busy road with the river now on your left, meandering sharply as it approaches its confluence with the mouth of the Severn. About half a mile after the roundabout the road and path turn to the right at Rover Way (named after the Rover Car company factory that used to be there).
Moving gradually away from the road, the path crosses what looks like a previous traveller’s site. It then runs around the back of what is obviously a permanent site of static homes and caravans. I was warned that the residents do not appreciate your interest. It is incredibly untidy outside this place with all sorts of rubbish strewn about on land and beach alike. The waymark signs have been prised off the posts but the path is clear. You pass a severe high concrete walled enclosure
(I tweeted to ask what this might be. Someone suggested it was a day nursery -LOL) and then through some carefully placed boulders to climb a short hill to reach the giddy height of 78 feet above sea level.
The path rounds the corner of this man made hill and gives you a fine view over the Severn Estuary. At low tide the wide mud flats are snaked with many meandering channels.
The view on the landward side could not be more contrasting. Straight ahead are large gas containers and to the right a massive factory looms on the horizon, spewing smoke and surrounded by spoil. I think this is the Spanish owned Celsa Steel Works.
The path descends over rather unfriendly coarse stone, runs past a massive water treatment works and skirts a liquid gas works before reaching the far end of Rover Way. Croeso i Gaerdydd! (trans. “Welcome to Cardiff”).
You now have to traverse the southern part of Cardiff. It’s not a promising start. The path (rather grandly called Ocean Way) runs alongside the very busy road which is servicing business parks and light industry. Keep your eyes out for the path waymark signs and keep heading for the city centre. Passing the Tennis Centre on your right, after about a mile after re-joining the Rover Way you reach a roundabout adorned with large snazzy geometric structures.
At this point I was very glad that I had booked myself into the nearby Premier Inn (Cardiff City South.) In fact you have just walked by the back of it. If you are staying there for the night, turn right at the roundabout (onto East Tyndall Street) and right again.
Make sure that you ask for a room which is not on the roadside. The quietest rooms are opposite their car park (odd numbers between 17-35 on the ground floor and 55-69 on the upper floor). The bed was very comfortable and the livery far more attractive than other budget hotels I have stayed in. And the large TV on the wall worked.
Blisters (do not read if you are squeamish)
I had made the mistake of walking with the wrong shoes. Blisters are curious phenomena. You know you are getting one as you begin to notice soreness but it’s only when you stop walking for a significant length of time that their real pain impresses itself upon you. I was quite shocked to find four really nasty ones when I took my shoes and socks off. Two had burst of their own accord and two remained great bubbles of swollen skin. From my experience the best treatment is to wash the feet, burst the blister with a pin and then spend an agonizing time pressing the blister all around to exclude the liquid. And then dry carefully, apply a gentle antiseptic and rest them. Slapping plasters on at this stage can be premature, as the blisters can re-fill with liquid. Unfortunately as I did not have the luxury of someone transferring my baggage for me, I had only packed the barest minimum of overnight things and my day bag was not equipped with my blister kit . What I did have was my wonderful Victorinox Swiss Card. And that has a pin and some sharp scissors. Both were required for lancing the blisters. Half an hour of excruciating squeezing later I was hungry enough to force myself to put on fresh socks and the shoes and hobble over to eat.
The food and drink at the Ocean Restaurant opposite the hotel were pretty good and a few glasses of wine applied internally, helped numb the sore feet.